Tradeoffs of Web 2.0

Monday, February 16, 2009

Web 2.0 is the catchall buzzword that people now like to use to call the internet, signifying how different and better it is from years ago. Not too long ago, back when I was just starting to discover the wonders of surfing (and inevitably, free porn), people were calling the internet "Information Superhighway." Nowadays, people can't type shit so I guess using something shorter will make things easier. Different, yes. But is it really any better?

First, a short story. I first learned how to write HTML when I was thirteen, a full 11 years ago (1997). Back then, publishing on the net meant you had to write lots of jargonish html code, experiment with dangerous technologies like javascript and dialup, and finally apply for a web space on the then independent Even after you did get your spot, you had to get listed in search engines, because the engines back then were the equivalent of old blind men because

- they only recognized who you introduced to them
- they remember only for a very short while
- numerous as they are, not many ever stay around long enough to matter

Even the leader in search engines, Yahoo, was not too far ahead of competitors. It was the snobby old son of a bitch that only remembered people who gave it money. Finding the best sources of information was easy, because usually they were the only ones who were funded enough to get noticed.

Those days, funding meant more listings on turnpike pages (i.e. yellowpages of the web) and search engines, more listings meant more people seeing your site, more people knowing about you meant more people would recognize your credibility. It was a crude way of establishing heirarchy, but it worked for a a while. Information was limited, but those that existed commanded good authority.

Then came Google. Google was a superhuman stalker compared to Yahoo and his gang of aging gravemagnets. It didn't recognize what was on your wallet. It only saw how many other people thought you were telling the truth. You didnt even have to approach him. He RAN towards you, took information without you even noticing it, and placed it in his listings. Getting found on the net was now for everybody. The dawn of the "people" era was nearing.

With the advent of Google came the advent of friendlier content publishing websites. You were no longer required to know HTML. You just need to know how to type. Shit, you don't even know how to type PROPERLY. A guy who can read instructions and click with one finger can post content online.

Web 2.0 had come. Everybody who had something to share, could finally share it and be actually heard. Information content online simply exploded. Google searched, and made sure things are credible. If it werent, it'd be at the very back of a long list, like that retarded worker that keeps on applying in your company and gets routinely rejected for spelling "privileges" wrong.

Back then it'd be hard to even find data on Magellan's parents, nowadays a three second google will give you a thousand hours worth of research in the Library of Congress.

In that search, of course, you can even find Magellan's exploits, Magellan's encounter with Lapu Lapu, and his untimely death. If you get lucky, you just even might find out that he never wanted to kill Lapulapu and they were really friends.

It's all good, except, well, Magellan was never really friendly towards Lapu Lapu.

I wrote that shit up and as of date, at least a thousand students have read that article and probably halfbelieved it - because it was in front page. An article written by a guy who slept through half of his social studies classes in highschool gets to talk about Philippine History.

What went wrong?

Web 2.0. With the increase of people pointing at each other as authorities, no matter what subject, everybody became an authority, and websites that actually had an authority on something but did not have enough people pointing, was thrown into the back. My website, for example, has more authority online than the Philippine Historical Society. So when I say something, it's more likely to be believed than the Society's, simply because people hear my version first.

By people, I mean students who write down the first thing they can find for homework because they want to do whatever the hell it is that students do online (free porn).

Of course, not all people are like me who deliberately poison the well just to see if there will be people stupid enough to drink from a well clearly labeled as poisonous. (result: There are. Lots of them. If my blog's "facts" was poisoned water, I'd be on trial for genocide already)

Some people really write their opinions, and to some extent, maybe they're more right than the authorities. My article on Januario Galut may not have been right, but it's not wrong either, and the opportunity to go online has made people seriously reconsider a possible error in our history.

Of course things could have gone better at this point, but it didnt. With the introduction of mainstream advertising online, anybody could setup commercial websites already, where visitation translated to exposure, and eventually, to money.

Google revolutionized advertisement, but became the victim of his own machinations. People started exploiting the algorithms Google used to check authority. People deliberately increased their authority levels for their websites through more unofficial means like link trading. Sites that were neither authorities nor had ANYTHING remotely to say about topics kept popping up on top of Google searches. The net started getting covered with a layer of webpages that basically do nothing but redirect you to either ads or more pages that contain nothing but ads.

Try googling for your favorite novel and see how much of the information you'll find on the front page is actually information you'd want to know. And no, Barnes and Noble, we dont give a fuck about how much it costs!

Few people might notice it, but it's actually getting harder and harder to find things online without having to stumble on false information or lost in a jungle of ad sites.

Don't get me wrong though. Thanks these changes, we have now more information than we can imagine. Unfortunately, the more information we have, the more bullshit we have to filter to get the better contents. As denoted by this simple graph i made the same way I would have made it 11 years ago (God bless you MSPaint)

And I'm not saying the internet as an information medium is dead. Far from it, it's evolving, and I'm hopeful that we'll find a way around what we have right now. People are noticing and people are taking action. Google has started cracking down on link exchanges, and neoturnpike websites like Digg and Wikipedia have introduces better ways of claiming authority.

It's a weird wired ride to future. It will be far from smooth, but the destination is always worth looking forward to. (more free porn)

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